Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Mayoral candidates debate in forum at Memorial Union

Satya Rhodes-Conway attends meet and greet along with MGR Govindarajan before forum
Audrey Thibert

The Associated Students of Madison, BadgersVote and Campus Area Neighborhood Association held a mayoral candidate forum with incumbent Satya Rhodes-Conway and candidate Gloria Reyes Monday at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union.

In her opening statement, Rhodes-Conway talked about the work she has done for housing, climate change, transit, racial equality and public health during her tenure as mayor. She said she worked to expand The Affordable Housing Fund, purchased the first all-electric fire truck in North America, added thousands of units of housing and greatly increased the amount of renewable energy used in Madison.

In Reyes’ opening statement, she spoke about her experience with law enforcement and why she chose to become a law enforcement officer — to build a positive relationship between people of color and the police. As mayor, Reyes wants to work on public safety and increasing affordable housing.


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The first question of the debate asked the candidates how they will work with various stakeholders in Madison, to create a vibrant and diverse community. 

Reyes said her leadership style is based on transparency and engagement with residents, with a focus on equity. She said she hopes to work on racial equity and removing racial disparities in the community, and hosts office hours in various parts of the city on Fridays to talk to the community and get input.

Rhodes-Conway spoke about how she is trying to reach communities who are unable to show up to council meetings and speak with them. She referenced recent developments in the city’s transportation and how they incorporated the public into those conversations.

“We stepped back and said, ‘Let’s talk with people about how they feel about our streets and our transportation system. And let’s ask what their values are. And let’s understand what people’s priorities are. So that even before we get to the road project, we’re incorporating the community’s point of view in our process.’ And so that’s something that we did start in my administration that I think is really working well.” Rhodes-Conway said. 

The candidates also spoke on increasing affordable housing through changes in zoning laws and building laws. The city is currently far behind on housing development and must add many units each year to keep up with demands, according to Rhodes-Conway.

She spoke of her successes with affordable housing thus far, such as building thousands of housing units and doubling the affordable housing budget. Rhodes-Conway said she will continue to prioritize housing in the upcoming years.

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Reyes responded that doubling the budget is not enough and that the money needs to be spent urgently. She plans to increase housing equity, starting with seniors and students. 

Rhodes-Conway and Reyes spoke on their differing views about the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system. Reyes has been critical of the BRT system throughout her campaign and stated during the forum that it is dangerous and negatively impacts marginalized communities.  

“I think the Bus Rapid Transit system on State Street was a bad idea,” Reyes said. “You know, I wish we would have been able to take the bus off State Street, it’s just unsafe.”

According to Rhodes-Conway, the BRT system was built to minimize walk times to bus stops and minimize the use of transfer buses, which helps communities of color.

The spring general election will take place on April 4.

Prior to the event, District 8 alder candidate MGR Govindarajan and incumbent mayoral candidate Rhodes-Conway held a meet and greet at the for students to attend and speak to them.

State Representative for Assembly District 76 Francesca Hong was originally scheduled to be part of the meet and greet but was unable to attend the event.

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